Craig Williams

Craig Williams on “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography” – Exploring Metaphysical Realms through Agni Yoga

Introduction

The following is an interview with Craig Williams, discussing his new book “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)”. The interview covers topics such as the role of meditation in exploring metaphysical realms, reincarnation and karma, igniting the sacred spark within, the relationship between science and spirituality, and the integration of Eastern and Western esoteric traditions in his work.

This is the second interview we have done with Craig as I find him to be refreshing in this world of magic, he is someone who has truly walked the walk, being accepted by and respecting multiple traditions while also thoroughly carving out his own path and direction.

If you did not read the first interview, then I advise doing that first and then coming back to this one. You will then be able to see the development of the journey Craig has been on.


General

PAA: What role does meditation play in exploring metaphysical realms and expanding consciousness? Are there specific techniques more effective than others?

The role of meditation plays an extremely important role in exploring metaphysical realms and the expansion of consciousness, or rather it SHOULD. I feel this is often glossed over or completely ignored in many circles of esoteric work. Cultivating a substantial meditation practice is fundamental in not only navigating the murky waters of “other realms” but also in establishing a clear relationship with oneself and one’s place in the universe. In yogic systems, the practice of meditation proper is considered Dhyana. This is preceded by the limb of Dharana or concentration which preceded by the limb of Pratyahara or sensory withdrawal. 

Therefore the role of concentration and withdrawing the senses to prepare the nervous system for meditation proper is very important to mention before discussing the potential benefits of the practice of mediation. Many people today complain of the inability to concentrate and focus and without these abilities, any hope of using the practice of meditation will be slight at best. This is sobering reality check for many, but it must be addressed. Another facet to mention is the amount of time spent in meditative states. Extensive time must be spent in deeper meditative states for substantial transformation to occur. This is much like exercise. Walking ten to twenty minutes a day is very good for health however this will not result in advanced states of physical fitness. If I run ten to twenty minutes, many beneficial reactions will occur within my mind and body. However if I run for one to two HOURS, deep alchemical changes occur such as an increase in mitochondria and training my body to improve the utilization of glucose and fat for fuel; these transformations only occur if I exercise for specific extended lengths of time, not ten to twenty minutes. So we must be realistic about how much time we are spending in meditation. 

Meditation for ten to twenty minutes a day can help one relax and decompress from stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, etc. But this small amount of time will not magically propel one into deeper realms of consciousness. Often people need to spend more time cultivating the ability to concentrate and focus before attempting to learn meditation proper. Eastern systems of gnostic study provide detailed programs of study for preparing the mind and body for deeper practices of yoga and these preparatory methods should not be overlooked or ignored. Once one does understand and utilizes the preparatory methods, entering into the deeper states of meditation proper can be radically life altering. One can experience dramatic inner visions and even external projections of consciousness. These are par for the course, nothing truly “special.” The third Pada of Patanjanli’s Yoga Sutras, the Vibhuti Pada, deals primarily with the various “super-natural” powers that one may manifest or experience on the path to Samadhi. But this is just like fireworks on the Fourth of July, expected and soon forgotten.  

Fundamentally, the main goal of Dhyana or meditation is to turn the awareness inwards, away from the external world and external egoic obsessions. To seek the inner presence of the Divine which is always eternally present patiently waiting to be “discovered.” 

PAA: Do you think our souls have lived through multiple incarnations across space and time? If so, do we carry karma and lessons with us through different lifetimes?

The question of reincarnation is a complex and incredibly nuanced topic of discussion! Different lineages and schools of theology have divergent views on this topic and it is a subject rife with controversy. The mere mention of karma and reincarnation cause some individuals to become angered and accusatory—“no one deserves this!” etc. Many schools of thought argue over whether there is actually a true personality who is the protagonist of karmic evolution, some claiming that upon death, the personality we associate with, assume to be the “person”, dissolves like a cloud in the sky. Other schools propose that each life is a learning journey, each life building upon another, in a progressive development, other schools view the earthly body as a “prison” to be escaped and avoided. Therefore this subject is incredibly complex and nuanced. One important aspect I always bring up which is often neglected is that what we term “reality” is but one small wavelength of cosmic manifestation. The human earthly realm is but one realm among many for incarnation—an infinite array of lokas exist for incarnation, embodiment, and spiritual evolution. 

In my opinion, for the majority of individuals, it is best to ignore concerns about supposed “past lifetimes” and focus on the present incarnation. As a matter of fact, most individuals would go insane if they were able to see what lifetimes they had led “in the past.” One important consideration to keep in mind from a Tantric perspective: what we think at the moment of death is of vast importance. This is an extremely important concept to contemplate and embody. In many ways, we are training our entire lives for this single moment of what I term “death lucidity.” This is extremely important to contemplate and take seriously. 

The quality of memory or smarana must also be considered. The inner limbs of yoga, both Indian and Tibetan, methodically work to purify the senses and clear obscurations which cloud the quality of our “inner vision.” What we feed our mind produces the quality of the mind; this can be cloudy, chaotic, or clear. So the quality of our perception will dramatically determine our ability to grasp the nuances of incarnation. 

The concept of multiple time-streams must also be considered when pondering the question of reincarnation. The predictable flow of mundane linear time is but one stream among many that feed into the ocean of eternity. In some dimensions, the past / present / future occur simultaneously while in other dimensions there is only the Eternal Now. Time streams are wave forms crashing within the ocean of eternity. 

PAA: If everything emerges from an eternal cosmic fire or light, how might we further ignite the spark of the sacred within ourselves through spiritual practice?

My new book “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga) directly targets this important concept: how can we uncover / awaken / nourish / purify the sacred spark eternally burning within the human experience. The sciences of Tantra, Ayurveda, Yoga, Jyotish, and Nei Gong provide important maps for this alchemical journey. We could call the path of one’s spiritual journey “the path of the Flame”. Each individual must work to cultivate their awareness of this eternal divine spark which is in many ways a “remembering”. Important ideas on this concept are revealed in the gnostic text “The Hymn of the Pearl”. It is very important for individuals to search for a path that calls out to them, a path which inspires them. This is not something magical although many portray it as such. We just have to be listening, to be awake and aware. In many ways this describes the process of Agni Yoga: a purification of the senses. The senses must be withdrawn from the mundane world (Pratyahara) and purified. Many systems exist that teach and describe this process and each individual must discover a path which guides them in this process of involution. But this process does not occur with luck or with no effort and the majority of the influences of mundane life guide the individual AWAY from this process. Therefore an individual must make a decision on their priorities and formulate a plan if they wish to undertake this alchemical process. The good news is that we live in a time of unprecedented access to texts and teachers alike. 

My goal for “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga) was to provide readers with a type of primordial inspiration which they can feed into their own unique path of alchemy. The concept of the sacred spark exists within every spiritual tradition in an elemental seed-like form, waiting for the incubatory heat needing for sprouting (Tapas). It is my hope that the text can be used by everyone regardless of their specific spiritual path to ignite specific states of awareness to discover the divine flame hidden within their human incarnation and use this for inspiration!

PAA: Is direct experience more valuable than intellectual study when exploring questions of consciousness and existence? How do revelation and transmission differ?

The discussion of direct experience versus intellectual study is an extremely important area to explore. I see both areas as important and both have the potential for cross-pollination. From a yogic perspective, the entire purpose of intellectual study was to prepare the mind and purify the mind for direct experience. It is important to note that the concept of “intellectual study” within the path of Yoga is not equivalent to the concept of “academic study.” We could for example examine the yogic concept of Svadhyaya or “Self-Study”. This term is often explained as some type of personal introspective self-examination, often with individuals being asked to journal how they feel in order to “find themselves” as some type of exploration of “Svadhyaya.”  This is not how the practice of Svadhyaya is defined in traditional Yoga. Technically the definition of Svadhyaya is “the study of Moksha Shastras” or scriptures which discuss distinct concepts of liberative gnosis, texts which are considered sacred writings within the respective tradition.  Also implied within this study of scripture is the practice of mantra sadhana. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.44 states: “From Svadhyaya (study and repetition of the mantras) communion with the Ishta-Devata (desired Deity) is established.” From this verse it is very clear that svadhyaya is not simply reading books or taking college classes in Religious Studies. This verse is stating that the practitioner will experience a gnostic communion, a direct experience, with his or her desired Deity, not simply acquire knowledge. This is not what the contemporary world would term intellectual study.

However when we are discussing nuanced subjects such as consciousness, revelation, and transmission there are no completely neat and clear categories. The ideal would be to have a balance of intellectual study to provide a framework of study / practice and also practices which provide direct gnostic revelatory experience. I know many professors of Sanskrit who have no spiritual beliefs at all; they have spent a lifetime of study of Sanskrit and have experienced no “communion with the Ishta Devata”.  I also know many practitioners who have experienced radical communion with the numinous yet have no way to digest the experience or frame the experience within their lives. For me, the alchemy lies in the balancing between these two paths. This balancing act cultivates a type of spiritual fire or Tapas which deeply inspires my life. 

PAA: What role might quantum phenomena play in understanding multidimensional layers of reality?

The study of quantum physics / quantum phenomena can play a very stimulating role in the exploration or study of multidimensional layers of reality. But for this pursuit to be truly fruitful, it cannot be pedestrian or “armchair” study of quantum physics. The contemporary new age world is filled with what I call “garbage quantum physics”. So although I personally feel that the exploration of the study of quantum physics can be fruitful, it must be a serious mature examination of quantum phenomena not just cherry-picking data which requires a rigorous and mature multi-disciplinary view.

PAA: How might we move beyond rigid constructs of space and time to connect to our boundless true nature?

The practices of Yoga and Tantra provide a wide array of tools and practices which help move the practitioner beyond the rigid constructs of mundane space and time. Our true inherent nature, the Atman, is boundless, infinite in scope and beyond mundane comprehension. Practices such as mantra sadhana, puja, Bhakti Yoga, Sri Vidya, etc all work to transmute mundane human awareness into cosmic awareness. This is not an escapist fantasy or childish game but a common experience born from the Tapas of Yogic sadhana. 

PAA: Is humanity headed toward an event horizon or singularity that will require expanded awareness to navigate creatively rather than destructively?

I myself don’t find apocalyptic obsession interesting. Each generation feels the impending “end of the world.” This happens over and over ad nauseam. I think humanity does not need to wait for any crisis or event horizon in order to expand awareness. Since the beginning of time there has been constant suffering. This is the nature of Samsara. It is the responsibility of every human to cultivate compassion for all living beings and to work in some way to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings, humans and animals. I always encourage anyone living in fear of the “end of the world” to go down to their local homeless shelter and animal shelter and quickly begin to help people / animals who are suffering. Act at directly and locally as possible. Stop worrying about the future and act in the present moment to alleviate pain and suffering. 

PAA: Can science and spirituality be integrated for more holistic understanding, or do their approaches fundamentally contradict?

Science and spirituality should ideally cross-pollinate, each one enhancing the other. However we can clearly see the radical dichotomy which exists between these two fields. When this disconnect occurs, there are significant negative implications for all levels of society. Both sides must set aside prejudices and myopic arguments and work closer together to build bridges of communication. This often occurs when the older closed-minded members of specific paradigms literally die as highlighted by Thomas Kuhn in his class “Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” I had many mentors and Gurus in my lifetime who were engineers and scientists who were also deeply committed to their spiritual sadhana, all encouraging me to view reality in a comprehensive manner and cultivate an integral vision of reality. The important work of Sri Aurobindo and Rudolf Steiner were also deep inspirations to me of how science and spirituality can work in intimate harmony in a true alchemical vision. In particularly, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s concept of the Supramental Descent is an extremely important and fertile area of study in relation to evolution and the implications of Quantum Physics in relation to spiritual development. 

PAA: How might embracing paradox, ambiguity, and uncertainty aid progress on life’s journey more than seeking hard and fast answers?

Embracing paradox, ambiguity, and uncertainty is a great aid in the pilgrimage of the human incarnation. We are born into samasara and must navigate our unique prarabdha karmaand svadharma and there are no guarantees in how our lives may play out. The more we try to perfectly plan and force certain outcomes, the more likely the suffering. This is why the Hindu concept of Shraddha, often translated as “faith”, is so important. Shraddha is not the “blind faith” of Abrahamic traditions, rather it is a certainly born from direct experience of the numinous. The entire point of Svadhyaya, study of moksha sastras and mantra japa, is to allow the sadhaka to have a vision of his / her Ishta-Devata, their own personal vision of the Divine. Once this occurs, worry and fear lose the death grip on the mind which perpetuate layers and layers of Maya. When constantly possessed by worry and fear the person lives in a never-ending Mirage. In the words of The Mother:

My life is terrible!’ they say. ‘I have the most terrible life in the world!’ They are fools. Everyone has the life that is best suited for his total development; everyone has the experiences that are best suited for his total development, and everyone meets the difficulties that are best suited for his / her total realization.

Paradox, ambiguity, and uncertainty are opportunities to turn within and attune ourselves to the inner voice / inner images of the Soul, so to avoid these experiences is to miss rare chances for spiritual growth.

 

Agni, the divine flame hidden within all matter and all levels of reality, builds bridges between traditions and once an individual connects with this ever-present Eternal Flame, sectarian differences melt away.p

Craig WIlliams

New Book: “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartograpy (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)

PAA: In your previous interview, you described extensive initiatic study in Eastern traditions like Yoga, Tantra, Vedanta etc. How do the “primordial tributaries of gnosis” you explore in this new book connect back to or build upon your background in Sanatana Dharma?

The new book “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartograpy (A Handbook of Agni Yoga) (Gateway Publications) is entirely rooted in my life journey within the vast inspiring expanse of Sanatana Dharma. This text was born from my desire to connect all streams of primordial gnosis to the Vedic concept of Agni. How is the ash cross different from the ashes smeared on the body of the Aghori? Agni, the divine flame hidden within all matter and all levels of reality, builds bridges between traditions and once an individual connects with this ever-present Eternal Flame, sectarian differences melt away. But this does not mean that everything melts into a bland generic mess. Rather it means that a unique diversity-within-unity is revealed. In many ways, this new book is a distillation of a lifetime of experience baked in the Tapas of my Aghora sadhana

PAA: You also mentioned your deep interest in Gnosticism, the Nag Hammadi texts, Western esotericism etc. How does this book synthesize Eastern and Western mystical streams in a unique way?

My studies of the important Nag Hammadi texts have been deeply inspiring. I was karmically blessed to be able to be awarded a degree in Religious Studies at Louisiana State University at a time when the Nag Hammadi texts were finally available in text form and microfiche in academic circles. I was also doubly blessed with the karma of being able to study these texts under the direction of Dr. Robert Segal, an immanent scholar of Gnosticism and Jung. His lectures and personal guidance were deeply inspiring to me in my youth. I was particularly fascinated with the texts “Gospel of Thomas”, “Gospel of Phillip”, and “The Hymn of the Pearl.”

Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)devotes an entire chapter to a unique translation and commentary on these Nag Hammadi gospels. For over twenty years I have taught private courses and organized study groups on these inspiring gnostic scriptures and this chapter gives a glimpse into how the “lens of Agni” can help uncover unique messages hidden within these scriptures. We read these gospels via the “Eyes of Fire.” Reading in this manner allows for these gnostic verses to be used as Lectio Divina allowing the reader to potentially enter into deeper states of alchemical perception. 

PAA: Your book “Cult of Golgotha” combined Eastern ideas with Bertiaux’s system of Esoteric Voodoo. Is there any relationship or crossover between the symbology, rituals, concepts etc. outlined across these two texts?

Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)can be read as a stand-alone text however keen readers will see unique connections between this new text and my previous texts “The Cult of Golgotha” and “Entering the Desert” (both via Anathema Publishing). I personally feel all of my books are inter-related and inter-connected yet can absolutely exist independently as well. Many of the ritual and prayers found within “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)” can unlock deeper layers of my previous writings due to the unique revelatory power of Agni Yoga. This new book is also deeply inspired by my private discussions with Dr. Reginald Crosley. We would talk for hours and he was very encouraging to me and many of the rituals and prayers within “Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)” were shared with Dr. Crosley years before I envisioned writing this new text. His positive feedback was no doubt an ember which eventually became the flame of this new book. 

PAA: “Entering the Desert” sounds like it explores pagan sacramental mysticism and elemental magic. Do any of those themes reappear within “Desert Meditations” and its map of the esoteric body or discussion of the role of the sacraments?

The two “Desert texts” absolutely share many common themes in particular the role of the sacred flame of Agni within the gnostic Mass and within the alchemical transformation of the Sacraments. Once the practitioner has discovered a connection to the inner flame, all aspects of gnostic study and experience are deepened and radically transformed. In many ways, the new book is an “igniter” of all my other texts!

Tantric Physics

PAA: In what ways does this eclectic fusion of Eastern and Western esotericism in “Desert Meditations” build upon or differ from your previous trilogies like “Tantric Physics” which may have had more of a Hindu/Buddhist focus?

I wrote the text “Entering the Desert” in a unique style and manner to allow anyone to be able to read and comprehend. There is no “complicated” Sanskrit or Yogic theory. However, all aspects of “Entering the Desert” are rooted in my explorations of the Aghora path as well as Agni Yoga. Entering the Desert” presents an elemental primordial vision of spiritual transformation which can be applied to any tradition yet contains the seeds of the Aghora path and the alchemical fire of Agni Yoga. 

PAA: You mention the central role of Agni as the Flame of the Soul. Is there any connection between this concept and your Aghori sadhana mentioned in the background interview?

All aspects of Agni Yoga are related to my path of Aghora sadhana. The Aghora path is a distillation of all facets of Indian gnosis melting together into a stream of radical devotion to the Divine. The inner Flame of Agni guides all spiritual growth and karmic unfoldment, and the Aghora path is a vision of seeing the Divine Flame burning within each and every aspect of reality: nothing is not Divine! 

Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)

PAA: What is the meaning of the title Desert Meditations and how does it relate to the theme of the book?

I have always been fascinated with the concept of a specific style of writing often termed a “meditational”. It was very common growing up in a Catholic culture to find small “Books of meditations” sitting around my house being used by my mother for prayer and devotional study and in the monasteries where I worked as a volunteer. I remembered the priests would frequently carry small “devotional books” for Lectio Divina with them as they went to Mass or as they counseled people in need. In adulthood, I also saw this same practice with small devotional sanksrit texts while traveling in India and Tibet (Sutra literature) as well as in many streams of Qi Gong and Kung Fu which I studied: all these traditions used “meditational texts” to convey complex theological / philosophical ideas in terse “Sutra-like” verse. 

I wanted this new text to mirror these experiences and become a text when can easily be carried during spiritual practice or traveling and to be used daily to ignite and inspire the readers spiritual growth. Ideally with each reading, a new layer is revealed and as the reader’s consciousness is transformed, hidden layers of the text manifest much like the inner Flame of Agni. The text is layered with devotional writing, prayers, and meditations which are used to ignite the awareness of the guiding force of the eternally present Inner Flame of Agni. Ideally this book can become a constant companion for Lectio Divina, meditation proper, gnostic mass, or simply inspired reading!

As we journey throughout our lives and explore the unfoldment of our unique Prarabdha Karma, several streams of time, past, present, and future, all coalesce and intermingle however few are aware of this.

Craig Williams

PAA: How do you explore the concepts of time-travel, Solar and Lunar realms of experience, and the Mass in the context of gnostic ritual and practice?

The concepts of Time-Travel, Solar and Lunar realms of experience and the alchemical machine of the Mass are all discussed in my new book. As we journey throughout our lives and explore the unfoldment of our unique Prarabdha Karma, several streams of time, past, present, and future, all coalesce and intermingle however few are aware of this. We can gain awareness of this via specific states of meditational / gnostic awareness which is discussed in the text. 

Specific streams of Solar and Lunar awareness radiate within the Ajna Chakra and this is connected to how we literally “see” reality. The next text explores these ideas and reveals specific prayers and meditations which can help to the reader to “see” more clearly clearing away the clouds of Maya which obscure the clear view of our spiritual path. 

The Mass is an important environment which when created with gnostic intention and awareness call down the Flame of Agni not only to the ritual altar and sacraments but into every cell of the participants. This new text offers some key meditations which can be utilized within any type of gnostic mass to deepen the experience and call down the sacred flame of Agni

PAA: What are the Nag Hammadi texts that the author comments on and how do they relate to the
book’s message and purpose?

There is an entire chapter in Desert Meditations: Gnostic Cartography (A Handbook of Agni Yoga)dedicated entirely to an esoteric commentary on the Nag Hammadi scriptures “The Gospel of Thomas” and “The Gospel of Phillip”. I chose to offer a unique perspective on these important gnostic scriptures, choosing to create a unique translation via a “lens of Agni” with a concomitant commentary which lends itself to the practice of Lectio Divina. Ideally this chapter can be used within gnostic study groups, meditation practice, and during gnostic Mass to allow the reader to experience the radiant Presence of Agni

PAA: What is the significance of the red Sanskrit “KRIM” Bija debossed on the back cover of the
book and what does it symbolize?

The bija mantra “Krim” is a powerful and incendiary invocation to the beautiful and radiant Goddess Kali. The book is a flame and a sacred altar of Ma Kali and the flames of Her smashan!


Learn more about Craig and his Work

Follow Craig on his blogs: Blog 1 and Blog 2
See more of his published work on Anathema Publishing
See the limited-edition version of his new book at the Violet Gateway

The Three Transformations – Free Course


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